KOUVOLA - HANKO
Kouvola–Hanko is a 550-km, 8-10 day bikepacking route from the city of Kouvola to the southernmost point of Finland, Hanko, through endless forests and sleepy countryside. The route crosses the Uusimaa and Kymenlaakso area connecting the national parks, recreational areas, cities and villages mostly on gravel and forests roads, offering a diverse range of the nature and culture of Southern Finland.
The Kouvola–Hanko is also the longest route of the South by Cycle Bikepacking Route Network, offering 550-kilometre and 8-10 day gravel rich tour. Throwing in a couple of rest days, Kouvola-Hanko is a laid-back, just a little short of fortnight escapade into the lush and versatile nature of Southern Finland and it's culture, including skinny-dipping, forest roaming, berry picking, camp fires and having an opera of bird singing as your alarm clock.
The route cuts across the Kymenlaakso and Uusimaa area, including the Helsinki metropolitan area, visiting Nuuksio and Sipoo Natural parks, the prettiest recreational areas and the main cities and villages of the 13 municipalities in the area. The majority of the route is gravel roads and dirt forest roads, spiced up with occasional sections of smooth and easy single track, which lead from village to village visiting the publicly managed fire rings, lean-tos and free camping areas.
There are 56 000 lakes of over one hectare in Finland and roughly a 1000 of those are in the route area. Therefore, there are possibilities for a swim usually multiple times a day and most of the recommended camping areas are by either a lake or a river, as well. Additionally, part of the route follows the southern coast line of Finland, giving it a scenic duality of the wall-like forests of inner lakelands and the open views of the coast to the Gulf of Finland.
By the Every Man's Rights, everyone has the freedom to roam the nature, forage, fish (with certain limitations) as well as camp (nearly) anywhere, despite whoever owns or occupies the land. This creates the backbone of the Finnish outdoor culture and is a treat for self-sufficient tourer's as well: in case of a mechanical, multi-hour midday nap or full-day beach party, it's ok by law to camp where ever you find yourself at dusk. However, the arctic flora & fauna is sensitive and fragile and it's good to stick with the official recommended areas to camp. Usually they offer a fire ring with firewood, log-style picnic tables, a lean-to or a cooking shelter by a lake and a compost toilet, so reaching those gems is very much worth it.
The route crosses on most days multiple restaurants, cafés, restaurants and grocery stores a day, so food & water wise touring is straight forward and you get away with max half-a-days rations and usually less. There is also many of historical and cultural sites along the way, including old ironwork villages, old villas and manors, and the mediaval river town of Porvoo, for instance.
As all the the South by Cycle routes, Kouvola-Hanko is also designed to be skinny-tires & family friendly easy riding. The longer distance and easy single track here and there grant the route a difficulty grade of 6/10, which falls in the sweet spot of being doable as your first multi-day bikepacking trip, but still having the ingredients for an exciting ride even for more experienced. A minimum tire size of 45mm is recommended, thinking of a couple of softer parts and the single track sections, but more experienced get away with narrower tires as well. Going light is a bonus, but not a necessity, as riding mostly non-technical and uphills short. Therefore, you can strap on your bike what ever gear you have, however you see fit!
The Kouvola-Hanko route can toured self-sufficient using the campsites and wilderness shelters on the way, but also completely without camping gear, sleeping in B&Bs and hotels – at least when you have booked your accommodation well in advance. The best way to enjoy the route is probably to combine the best of both worlds, enjoying a perfect mix of the best camping sites and the most interesting guesthouse options.
Read more about the route and a detailed route description in the 'Trail notes' blow...
LOGISTIC CHALLENGES OF 2023
Till the early 2024 the train connection between Karjaa and Hanko is replaced by busses due to railway renovation work. Unfortunately, there is room for only 3 bikes per bus and the space for the bike cannot be booked in advance. The railway connections opens again for the summer of 2024, but for now have some flexibility in your schedule to get out of Hanko or simply ride back to Karjaa along the northern gravel routes of the Hanko peninsula, to catch a train back to Helsinki.
The Western Uusimaa Loop, Ring G, Nuuksio National Park Overnighter and Sipoonkorpi National Park Overnighter use parts of the Hanko–Kouvola trail, and if there is no time for a longer trip, they also offer a taste of the Kouvola–Hanko route.
In addition, the M/S J.L. Runeberg steamship carries passengers on the Helsinki–Porvoo–Loviisa route in the summertime. By taking the ship, you can cycle the Loviisa-Porvoo-Helsinki part of the trail as a weekend trip or Porvoo–Helsinki as an overnight trip.
Kouvola esker landscape gravel roads and Jyräänjoki River rapids
Rolling forest road from the Kouvola Enäjärvi village road to the Sippola art village
Lake Korjärvi lean-to, lake forest and sauna
Strömfors, Fiskars, Billnäs, Forsby ironworks villages and Mustio Manor with water landscapes and services
Loviisa, Tammisaari and Porvoo Old Town colourful wooden house alleys with cafés and restaurants
National parks of Nuuksio and Sipoonkorpi and Västerby recreation area
Kuusijärvi smoke sauna
Keravanjoki and Vantaanjoki riverside trails
Lohjanharju and Lohjanjärvi lakeside trails
Dagmar’s spring and nature reserve on the Hankoniemi Peninsula
Smooth and flowing single tracks of Hanko peninsula, with it's many sand beaches and picturesque villas
Photos: Poppis Suomela, Teemu Oksanen and Taneli Roininen